Fantastic though the Red trip was, afterwards I was itching to get back to the uphill. Riding chairs sure ups the vertical and distance you can log in a day, but skiing without the touring element is like driving an automatic after standard: it’s less effort, but something important is missing.
I had a bacon party (yes, that’s a thing) to go to in the evening, so we opted for Paul Ridge to give us fast access to turns and an early return to town. The snow had been pounding down overnight, and in spite of some rather flat light the first bowl beyond Round Mountain was looking pretty dreamy. Everything seemed incredibly stable, so we wolfpacked the first turns on smooth, beautiful snow.
It all seemed to be going fantastically well until one of my skis prereleased on a steeper section, sending me into a huge somersault. I still don’t know exactly what happened, but my best guess is that as I tumbled my pole strap hooked the activation handle of my airbag. Next thing I was face down in the snow with a loud hissing noise, a strong smell of rubber, and a growing pressure at my back. It took me a moment to realise that my airbag had deployed.
Never having released it before, I had no idea how to deflate the bags and once I’d retrieved my ski, I had to make my way down the rest of the slope with the two giant bags hovering behind me, threatening to lift me off the ground every time my speed increased. Once I’d rejoined C and S I dug out the instruction card, let the nitrogen out of the bags, and stuffed them haphazardly back into their compartments. For the rest of the day, the 6.5lbs of airbag was purely a weight training exercise.
I was more rattled by the incident than I realised, and on our second run I was all over the place. Once we’d climbed back to the top of the bowl I let C and S take the prime line down the face, and went over to the side to take a slightly mellower line. It gave me exactly the opportunity to hit the reset button that I needed, and I was more than ready to make up for lost time on the next run.
This time we descended on the far side of the shoulder to the east of the bowl, where the wind hadn’t reached and the snow was drier and softer. It was a glorious, freewheeling powder run, where our tracks ripped clean lines through the snow before briefly cutting across one another and then blasting out onto the plateau below.
The crazy thing is that it was the Saturday right after a big storm, and yet we didn’t see another skier all day. As we worked our way along the ridgeline, all we found was empty bowls of untracked snow. The entire zone belonged to us.
We skied until our legs had nothing left, then headed back to town where I ate my own body weight in bacon and brined pork sandwiches. All in all, an excellent day in spite of the accidental airbag deployment.